Comparing HOA Fees in California

If you’re about to buy a house, condo or townhome near the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, you’d better brace yourself if the new place is part of an HOA.

A City Twig review of average HOA fees for 346 ZIP codes throughout California finds the 90024 ZIP code — home to UCLA and the Los Angeles Country Club — has the highest average HOA fee: $1,771.50 per month. To be clear, that amount is on top of your monthly mortgage payment.

Not surprisingly, the 90024 ZIP code is one of the wealthiest areas in Los Angeles. In 2010-14, average household income in 90024 was $120,091, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; by comparison, the average household income across California was $86,704 during that period.

HOA fees 90024

Arto Poladian, a Redfin real estate agent in the L.A. area, says HOA fees in the region can range from a voluntary $25-a-year contribution to cover the neighborhood’s annual block party to $1,000 a month or more for a swanky high-rise condo and its accompanying amenities, such as concierge services, valet parking, movie screening rooms and wine storage.

The fees depend, in part, on what type of property is involved, Poladian says.

For instance, HOA fees for a guard-gated, security-patrolled community in wealthy enclaves like Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Calabasas easily can exceed $300 a month, he says. Most of the HOA fees in the L.A. area are assessed by condo and townhouse developments, according to Poladian.

“Many newer condo and townhouse buildings offer a wide array of in-house conveniences, such as on-site, state-of-the-art gyms and exercise rooms,” Poladian says.

By the way, the average monthly HOA fee for all 346 ZIP codes in our review is $228.90 — considerably less than what you’d probably pay in Beverly Hills or Bel Air.

Where can you find that average HOA fee?

You’ll come closest to it in San Bernardino County’s 91708 ZIP code, where the average monthly HOA fee is $229.14. This area, in the town of Chino, is a little southwest of Ontario International Airport. In October 2016, the median home price in 91708 was $438,880, according to real estate website Zillow.

Generally speaking, HOA fees throughout California are among the highest in the U.S. A 2015 study by real estate website Trulia showed half of the 10 highest median HOA fees were in California: Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario ($315), San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward ($300), San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara ($290) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim ($285). The Trulia study looked at median HOA fees in the country’s 100 largest metro areas.

If you’re going to be forking over money each month for HOA fees, what do you get in return?

As defined by Investopedia, an HOA (homeowners’ association) uses monthly fees to maintain and improve commonly owned areas within an HOA. This includes lobbies, patios, swimming pools and elevators. Other HOA-financed amenities might include tennis courts, a community clubhouse or neighborhood parks.

Investopedia says HOA fees vary based on what an HOA provides. “Generally, the more services and amenities, the higher the fees,” the website says.

According to FirstService Residential, a company that manages HOAs in California, HOA fees can cover expenses such as:

  • Lawn care and landscaping
  • Snow removal
  • Water, plumbing and sewage systems
  • Air-conditioning and heating systems
  • Trash removal
  • Security systems
  • Cable TV and internet services

HOA fees middle

In many cases, an HOA turns over management of a community to a company that oversees a number of HOAs. That’s the situation with Shady Canyon, a gated community in the Orange County city of Irvine. In November 2016, the Shady Canyon Community Association hired FirstService Residential to manage the HOA.

Shady Canyon consists of 400 custom-built, single-family homes, with some valued at more than $20 million. Amenities include a clubhouse, a pool, tennis courts, and a private club with a championship golf course and a full-service spa.

The average HOA fee for Shady Canyon was not available. However, both of the ZIP codes for Shady Canyon — 92603 and 92612 — have average HOA fees well above the overall average in our review. In fact, the average monthly HOA fee for 92612 is the third highest HOA in our review.

HOA shady canyon

In the end, why would you buy a property governed by an HOA and pay what could be sky-high fees? Among the benefits of living in an HOA-run community are recreational amenities, hands-off maintenance, high standards for neighborhood appearance and built-in management of disputes, according to Realtor.com.

However, one of the drawbacks is an HOA’s strict regulation of homeowners’ behavior.

“For some buyers, the idea that a management association can tell you when you can put out a decorative flag or that you can’t park your truck in front of your property is a deal-breaker,” Realtor.com says.

Data is based on daily active listings for January 2017.

John Egan is editor in chief at LawnStarter, an Austin, Texas-based startup that connects homeowners with lawn care professionals. A graduate of the University of Kansas, John has more than 25 years of experience in journalism, brand journalism, public relations and blogging.